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MP quits after 'grave case' of false expenses claims

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THE political career of one of the British Labour Party's most senior parliamentarians has ended after he resigned, having been found to have submitted false expense claims over three years.

Denis MacShane, a privy councillor and former Minister for Europe, said he was resigning after a damning report by the Standards and Privileges Committee concluded he had submitted 19 false invoices that were "plainly intended to deceive" parliament's expenses authority.

The committee said it was the "gravest case" it had dealt with. It added it was impossible to say how much Mr MacShane had claimed "outside the rules" but it "may have been in the order of £7,500".

Last night the Conservatives called for the police to reopen their investigation into Mr MacShane's expenses with a view to bringing a criminal prosecution against him for fraud.

In its report, the Standards and Privileges Committee recommended that Mr MacShane be suspended from the House of Commons for 12 months.

Some time after the report's release, the MP for Rotherham announced he was resigning.

"He has expressed his regret, and repaid the money wrongly claimed," the report said.

"But this does not excuse his behaviour in knowingly submitting 19 false invoices over a period of four financial years which were plainly intended to deceive the parliamentary expenses authorities."

The findings come after a complaint made in June 2009 about expense claims Mr MacShane made for "research and translation services". Between January 2005 and January 2008, he submitted 19 claims forms backed by false invoices from the European Policy Institute (EPI).

The organisation's letterhead indicated there was a general manager and four associate directors but Mr MacShane admitted the titles were "simply on the letterhead to make it look more official", according to the report.

Mischief

The MP told the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards he used the EPI to recoup expenses he paid out for research as part of his parliamentary work on European issues.

He argued that he submitted the bills for "ease of administration" for amounts he considered covered "what I had disbursed in the period concerned".

Mr MacShane submitted a list of foreign travel to back up his defence. But the commissioner found much of the travel was against the rules. That included a trip to Paris for meetings around the European Book of the Year, which was "not a parliamentary duty".

The "real mischief" of Mr MacShane's conduct was that the "method he adopted of submitting false invoices" allowed him to dodge rules to use public money as he saw fit. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent